Embattled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy told OPB that approximately 150 militiamen occupied the Malheur National Widlife Refuge Building on Saturday evening.
Other eyewitness sources suggested the number was closer to 15 militiamen inside the building. Ammon Bundy, the spokesperson of the militia group, declined to confirm how many people were there.
The militiamen are in Burns, Oregon to support Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond. They’re ranchers convicted of arson, who are due to report to prison Monday.
The militiamen broke into the federal building with supplies, including food. Cliven Bundy spoke to his son, Ammon Bundy, on the phone after they occupied the building.
“He told me that they were there for the long run. I guess they figured they’re going to be there for whatever time it takes—and I don’t know what that means,” Bundy said. “I asked him, ‘Well how long can ya, how long you going to stand out there?’ He just told me it was for long term.”
The Hammonds have said they will report to prison Monday for a five-year sentence. Bundy said his son felt obligated to intervene on behalf of the Hammonds.
“That’s not exactly what I thought should happen, but I didn’t know what to do,” Bundy said. “You know, if the Hammonds wouldn’t stand, if the sheriff didn’t stand, then, you know, the people had to do something. And I guess this is what they did decide to do. I wasn’t in on that.”
Militiamen gathered in the parking lot of a Safeway grocery store Saturday morning, before taking to the streets of Burns. The group traveled Court Avenue to the sheriff’s office, then to the Hammonds’ home.
Dwight Hammond greeted the marchers.
“Remember, this is not about me. It’s about this country,” he said.
Many of the marchers later congregated at the Harney County Fairgrounds, before some diverted to the wildlife refuge.
Law enforcement took a laid back approach to the demonstration: Neither Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward or Oregon State Police made their presence known throughout the day. Both declined to comment for this story.